A balanced diet includes a variety of different foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy products. Dairy is a very important source of protein and calcium and should not be excluded from the diet. Examples of dairy include milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Traditionally, people only consumed full fat dairy. However, the current Australian dietary guidelines suggest people consume reduced fat dairy. This is because full fat dairy is a source of saturated fat and increased saturated fat consumption is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Reduced fat dairy products are also naturally lower in calories due to the removal of fat. Hence, it is suggested that reduced fat dairy product consumption can help with weight management. For example, replacing two serves of regular fat dairy milk and cheese with low fat varieties could lead to an energy deficiency of 327-592 KJ.
Furthermore, a number of studies found that the DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which specifically includes low fat dairy, had a positive association with reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes chronic diseases such as blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Do reduced fat dairy products have more sugar?
Sometimes, people avoid low fat dairy products due to the misconception that there is added sugar in them. This may be true for reduced fat flavoured yogurt and reduced fat ice cream. However, reduced fat plain milk, reduced fat cheese and reduced fat plain yogurt have no added sugar in them. The process of removing fat from milk is really simple. Fats have a low density and therefore rise to the top, so can be easily separated. This removal of fat then causes the rest of the components of the milk, such as the sugar, to be concentrated. Therefore, you see a slightly higher value of sugar on the label of the reduced fat milk or yogurt even though no additional sugar was added in the process. Low fat milk has some fat removed while skim milk has all the fat removed. To explain this further, have a look at the table below comparing the nutrition information per serve (250ml) for full fat, low fat and skim milk.
As you can see, as more fat is removed, the amount of the other components that make up the milk are increasing. For example, skim milk has a higher concentration of sugar compared to full cream as well as a higher protein concentration. The saturated fat content and calories are lowest in skim milk compared to full fat.
It is important to note that we should not look at the consumption of dairy products in isolation. We need to consider the overall diet of a person. Hence if you have a healthy diet overall, it is perfectly fine to consume full fat dairy if that’s your preference. Full fat dairy will still have the health benefits that low fat dairy has. However, if you have a high fat diet it may be best to make the switch to reduced fat dairy products.
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This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.